Sharing a bedroom with the youngest member of our family has led to certain complications when I encounter those oh-so-rare possibilities for an afternoon nap for myself.
A venture of this kind poses a few risks. The first obstacle is the actual turning of the door knob. Sweet Cara has proven that she can sleep soundly through near-tornado force winds and thunder. The sound of the door opening is another matter altogether. The next obstacle comes when I actually climb onto the bed. Sheets rustling may as well be a clanging cymbal. Third, line of vision. There is a chance that Cara may wake up enough to roll over and go back to sleep. Should she see the ever-desirable mama laying there right in sight, the game is up.
Last Thursday I thought conditions were right.
After worrying for several minutes over logistics, I took a deep breath outside my bedroom door before gently turning the nob to attempt the improbable. Cara started as the doorknob turned, but soon became still again. I crept slowly further into the room and climbed into bed on the far side away from the crib, arranging pillows around me so that a body pillow could act as a wall to block the baby’s vision.
No sooner had I laid my head on the pillow than Cara’s head jerked up and scanned the room with laser vision. Satisfied that nothing was amiss, she turned and settled back into sleep with her face facing my bed. Without moving, I slept uncomfortably a few minutes until she began shifting again and turning her head toward the wall.
The risk in this nap experiment was clearly not worth the reward.
Gingerly I crept down from the bed and silently headed toward the door. I should have been home free.
Suddenly Cara jerked awake!
I dropped to the floor and paused with bated breath, heart racing.
Cara grew still again and I scurried toward the door and gently slipped out.
I always knew that motherhood would challenge me to abandon my selfishness. I never expected that motherhood would give me opportunities to develop sweet ninja skills.
Nighttime is the province of mothers.
Almost every night I find myself reciting some version of this same directive: “Lillian, why are you crying? It’s still nighttime, baby, let’s get back in bed.” She doesn’t usually answer my question, but I kneel on the floor beside her bed and hold her for a few minutes before leaving her with BeBe dog and a pile of less important stuffed animals.
Last night started off typically. I was in bed by 10:30, but up again at 11 to nurse the baby and 11:30 to kiss Lillian back to bed. I found myself awake again at 4 to nurse Cara, only to send her off again into restless sleep which also kept me awake. Eventually I retreated to the couch to sleep for another 30 minutes before being greeted again by Lillian’s screams and refusal to go back to bed.
As I spent the morning bleary eyed and coffee-dependent, it occurred to me that as a wife and mother the home in a general way, is my mission field. This is especially true because my husband is not a Christian. No surprise there.
But nighttime is when the Gospel really walks and talks for me.
These nighttime risings challenge me to serve the needs of someone else through my own desperation at precisely the moment which is the most inconvenient to me, and I have a choice whether to serve in joy or in bitterness. Today I tried to greet the day with charity even though it started a lot earlier than I hoped.
This is my nighttime ministry.
This evening as I knelt on a folded, brown bath mat and reached into the tub to douse Lillian with another cup of tepid water, she looked intently at me and proudly chirped, “blue eyes.” She is getting so good at noticing little details. I am intrigued and a somewhat horrified of this little person becoming a mirror which reflects back interpretations of reality. Who am I in the eyes of this person I relentlessly love and yet get so frustrated with? The person whom I yell at and slap the wall in front of? Who am I reflected in the lenses of the person for whom I want the very best, but who inadvertently unearths my most deeply buried faults and sins?
Sometimes I need an infusion of patience and empathy.
What is it like encountering the world for the very first time and you are only two years old? When your delighted discoveries elicit a frown and disapproving tone?
Lord, give me patience.
Beautiful baby ‘do.
I have this ongoing fantasy about chopping off all my hair and it actually looking good.
In my daydreams, my hair lies flat and is miraculously straight. The weird permanent part in the back of my hair is gone, and the little hairs above the nape of my neck hang straight down instead of veering always right. It is a closely cropped pixie which is nevertheless feminine and also sassy.
I have never tried cutting it as short as my fantasy requires, but at this point in my motherhood journey I’m about as close to living out the fantasy as I have ever been. Cara makes me unsatisfied with my raggedy locks. Not only does she pull it mercilessly, she models the most perfect hairdo effortlessly. My hair has perhaps only been pardoned due to my inability to make an appointment at a salon. For the past three years every haircut has consisted of me standing in my bathroom sawing off the end of a ponytail with sewing scissors and occasional glimpses behind me into the mirror. It never comes out completely straight, but I let the curls and waves mask the unevenness.
I hesitate to cut because in 4th grade someone told me that I would make a cute boy, and I guess I’ve always subconsciously presumed that losing my hair would take me in undesirable directions. That I am lacking in beauty and femininity enough to wear a pixie.
This year I have been working on not letting fear or anxiety fuel my decisions. I cannot guarantee that I will actually cut it all off, but I am at least ready for a bob revival. The best way to go shorter is incrementally. Dip the proverbial toe into the water, and all.
On top of all this, I know I don’t want to venture into the arena of “mom hair”. What exactly this entails, unfortunately, lacks a solid definition and boundary lines. I asked Oliver if he would like me to get a “mom” haircut. His look of revilement was answer enough. When I asked him, “what’s a mom haircut?” The closest definition he could provide was an outdated style of one’s youth, or scraggly unstyled hair. Going by this latter definition I already sport “mom hair”.
So the only direction I can go is up. And that gives me peace.
Removing Lillian’s sleeper is a challenge in patience and dexterity. She approaches every interaction as an opportunity to be tickled. Changing her clothes or changing her diaper I’m met with peals of wild laughter, and exclamations of, “tickle, tickle!” She clenches her body, knees and neck to chest and grins like a hyena. Her eyes say, “we’ll see if you can grasp that zipper!” as she wiggles and laughs. Oh, how she laughs!
This high silliness started after I had my c-section and I could not lift Lillian to the changing table. I made her lay on the floor to change her diaper. The moment the little body hit the floor this unquenchable silliness would erupt and I’d find myself frowning and exhausted. I took the whole thing as disobedience, a little girl’s plan to make my life more difficult than it needed to be. A diaper change was war, and I was a general. I was concerned with tactics and results. I spoke harshly to her. I held her body still with my leg as I dressed her. I resorted to bribery. With jelly beans.
To just be still.
But I needed to be still. I needed to look at my daughter and love her fun-loving, silly toddler self and cherish these moments of alone time with my darling. My sweetheart. I don’t want to change her spirit and laughter, I want to nurture those beautiful qualities in her personality.
I’ve started thinking about my relationship with my daughters in gardening terms. They are my little flowers and I want them to grow big, beautiful and thriving. I plan to water my plants generously love and encouragement, and occasionally prune back the branches which are heading in the wrong direction.
So now I approach diaper changes with more gentleness. Sometimes I would still rather get the thing over quickly, but I try to at least smile at her and kiss her little head when I feel impatient. I usually follow the task with an enthusiastic tickle.
I’m also trying to forget that I typically shower the real-life plants in my yard with nothing but parched neglect. Ahem.